True story from within the walls of CBSSports.com: I actually pleaded to make this "busts" column just one very long "bust" column instead, centered solely on Melky Cabrera.
It didn't fly. But know that whatever you read in Cabrera's little capsule below, I had many more strongly-worded, well-thought out reasons on why he will disappoint. I even pushed him far down my rankings -- in the 80s for outfielders -- to make sure he doesn't come anywhere near my queue. By the time I would consider him, once all the Lucas Dudas and Juan Pierres have been selected, he will be long gone, and I will be a happy man.
The rest of the players you'll encounter below may not fit the traditional definition of "bust." I simply feel like they're going a little too high for where I would want to pick them in drafts, or pay for them in auctions. Their output, in short, won't reach their lofty draft position. I may kind of like these players in a vacuum, but I'd like them more as a seventh-round pick, not a fourth-round one.
Here are your 2013 busts.
Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays (Roto: Rd. 8, H2H: Rd. 6)
There's a little tiny voice inside of me that likes to bubble up, in the middle of a sweaty, disorienting "I hate Melky" diatribe, and suggest that Cabrera just got into shape, dedicated himself to becoming a better player, and that the steroids -- which he tested positive for and admitted to taking -- had little to do with his development. I quickly squash that voice.
One of my favorite allies in the fight against Melky's legitimacy is the advanced stat known as BABIP. This seems like it would be at odds with the anecdotal "Melky used steroids and will stink this year" theme of my argument. But his BABIP rose the last two years (.332 in 2011 and .379 in 2012, with it never having gone above .288 in the three previous seasons), which suggests, at least to me, that Cabrera started hitting the ball with more authority, a result of strength gained from the PEDs.
Cabrera's rise in BABIP also could have been the result of him beating out more lightly-hit balls for singles, as his leg muscles grew stronger thanks to the drugs. This segues neatly into why his steals will probably go down. Where most of the griping about steroids over the past decade has been centered on power numbers, Cabrera had 33 total steals the last two seasons; he had 26 the three previous combined.
I can go on about the psychology of him being branded a cheater wherever he goes. Of the sluggishness his body will encounter as the season drags on and he has no juice left, so to speak, in the dregs of the summer months. But there are nine more busts to get to, and I think my point has been made.
Zack Greinke, SP, Dodgers (Roto: Rd. 5, H2H: Rd. 3)
Let's pretend, just for a moment, that Greinke's elbow is totally fine and there's no worry associated with his arm. He's still going too early in drafts, ahead of Bryce Harper, R.A. Dickey, and David Wright in H2H leagues, and ahead of Matt Holliday, Dickey, and Ryan Zimmerman in Roto formats. Yes, Greinke was awesome in 2009, with a 2.16 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and a 9.5 K/9. But he followed that up with a 4.17 ERA and 1.25 WHIP the next year, and it's easy to forget -- or at least overlook -- his relatively high 3.77 career ERA and 1.25 WHIP, including a 3.83 ERA in his last three seasons. Greinke has only managed a K/9 of 9.0 or above twice in his nine-year career. He's good, but I'm not sure his numbers justify his lofty draft status, which could lead to a disappointing high draft pick.
Now throw in the elbow issues on top of all this, and you can see why I'm side-stepping Greinke on Draft Day
Mike Trout, OF, Angels (Roto: Rd. 1, H2H: Rd. 1)
This isn't some attempt to get myself attention and have some big, smug "conversation" on Twitter with people who disagree. If I wanted to do that, I would have put him up top, made the picture a big one of Trout striking out, and blasted this story out every few minutes with annoyingly tantalizing teases like, "Trout a bust? Tell me what you think!"
This is simply an argument against Trout repeating his 2012, which has led to his inflated draft status. He may finish top 20 overall, but I doubt that Trout will be the No. 1 overall Fantasy player by the end of the year. For starters, Trout's power is due for a correction. I would be happy -- as a Trout owner -- with 20 home runs from him. I would expect his average to stay about the same -- with the chance for improvement -- and could see him stealing about 40 bases. Again, a .300-plus average with 17 home runs and 40 steals is a great season, but not No. 1 overall (and it also makes one wonder why Trout's 2012 gets all this love, while Jacoby Ellsbury's almost-identical 2011 -- with fewer strikeouts and more doubles -- is considered a fluke).
But here's the rub: almost all of the first-round picks -- outside of Miguel Cabrera -- have their own problems and downsides. So I still think Trout should be picked third overall, because he has a ton of (and I am inventing something here, so go along with me) Fantasy Pop Culture value, which makes him attractive in a trade. Trout is essentially a status symbol -- people want to have him on their teams because it's cool. Drafting Trout is kind of like booking Kim Kardashian to emcee your 16th birthday party, when you could probably pay the same amount for a music group that could do far more entertaining. At the end of the night, you may have liked the fact that she was there, but you probably would have enjoyed yourself more if you had hired The Roots instead.
I'm not saying don't draft Trout. I'm saying if you do, and you don't try to trade him immediately for smaller pieces that have more overall value, you may end up being disappointed by the end of the year.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (Roto: Rd. 3, H2H: Rd. 3)
I keep going back and forth on Kinsler.
On one hand, he's topped the 30 home run mark twice in the last four years. On the other hand, his home run and steal numbers took a marked dip in 2012, following a 32-homer, 30-steal career year in 2011. I think Kinsler, who is being drafted in or around the top 30, is getting the dual benefit of being in what people consider a shallow pool of second basemen, while the 2011 season dances in the heads of would-be owners. It's a dangerous combination.
First, because second base isn't especially shallow, especially for speculators who can scoop up Jedd Gyorko, Josh Rutledge, and Matt Carpenter in anticipation of the trio gaining second base eligibility at the end of the season's first week. Secondly, Kinsler's erratic output over the last five seasons -- over his entire career, in fact -- hits a floor that is comparable to Chase Utley's upside (some combination of 35-40 total steals and home runs).
One may argue that Utley is a gamble, but Kinsler's most consistent number has been his average, and not in a good way -- it has ended up between .253 and .257 in three of the last four years. Owners are passing on Adrian Beltre, David Wright and Justin Upton in order to shore up second base with Kinsler, but they're failing to recognize that a player like Jason Kipnis could outperform the Rangers second baseman -- especially considering Texas' loss of Josh Hamilton and the possibility that Kinsler might have to deal with a rhythm-interrupting mid-season position change to accommodate Jurickson Profar.
Chase Headley, 3B, Padres (Roto: Rd. 5, H2H: Rd. 6)
I am granting "Injury Absolution" to Headley (and his broken thumb) for right now, much like I did with Greinke. The problem I have with Headley is his sudden leap in power, as he went from four home runs in 2011 to 31 in 2012. There's a school of thought that Headley finally figured things out in 2012, tapping into the power he saw in the minors and clicking, at long last, on the major league level. And with PETCO Park moving the fences in this year, Headley stands to gain even more in the power department.
But I take the opposite route. Headley saw a huge, almost unbelievable, jump in HR/FB rate, from 4.3 percent in 2011 to 21.4 percent in 2012. Basically, one out of every five fly balls he hit went out of the park. His highest rate prior to last season came in 2008, when he had a 10.7 percent HR/FB rate. His overall fly ball percentage didn't change, nor did his GB/FB ratio (at least not enough to make a note of it). And while he hit a handful more home runs on the road than at home, Headley's most interesting split came when comparing his second half to his first, as he hit 19 home runs in the last two months of the season.
In other words, by the end of August, Headley had 12 home runs. He more than doubled that in his final 57 games. To me, that's a hot streak, not a steady progression of power that he built up over the course of a year. Even with Headley's ADP drop thanks to the broken thumb, he still started out far too high -- based on one power-filled season -- to be attractive enough to grab in a draft.
Alex Rios, OF, White Sox (Roto: Rd. 8, H2H: Rd. 9)
The beef with Rios isn't that he is incapable of having a good season; it's that drafters have short memories and are picking him up based on his 2012, acting like it was a major breakout ... at the age of 31.
We've been down this road with Rios before, only to discover that everything looks vaguely familiar, before realizing the road is just one large circle, leading us back to where we started (namely, one of his down seasons). Rios has the ability to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases, but he's accomplished both in the same year just twice over nine seasons. To his credit, those two 20/20 seasons have come in the last three years, but he has a trend, throughout his career, of following up promise with disappointment. It's a constant see-saw with Rios -- he can hit a lot of doubles, but won't do so with consistency. He cut down his strikeouts, but also brought down his walks. He has never hit 18 home runs two seasons in a row and has never stolen 25 bases two seasons in a row.
There's always a qualifier with Rios -- two seasons ago, two of his last three, four of his nine years. The term here is "maddening," and Rios is the poster child. With a good season under his belt in 2012, history has led us to believe that 2013 should be more of the 15 home run, 20 steal variety, doing little, ultimately, to justify his ADP.
Rafael Soriano, RP, Nationals (Roto: Rd. 8, H2H: Rd. 8)
If Soriano signed with any other team, I'd be leaving him off all of my lists -- neither a breakout nor bust, just a solid closer who could get 40 saves. But Washington manager Davey Johnson has three closers at his disposal. And he's been known throughout his managerial career to give away some saves to pitchers who weren't his primary closer, including Hector Carrasco, Roger McDowell, Armando Benitez, and Chuck McElroy.
Granted, the bullpen usage history isn't easily explained away by saying, "Johnson mixes and matches," (there are injuries, cold streaks, implosions, etc.) but he has a track record of using secondary pitchers in save situations, he has two pitchers who saved 32 (Tyler Clippard) and 43 (Drew Storen) games in the last two seasons serving as middle relievers, and the Nationals could probably benefit from giving Soriano a day off here and there to keep his arm fresh for the postseason.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (Roto: Rd. 11, H2H: Rd. 11)
The beauty of Cruz has always been his ability to hit 20 home runs and steal 10-15 bases, while batting over .270. In actuality, this season played out exactly one time, in 2010: Cruz his .318 with 22 home runs and 17 steals. His 2009, arguably better, saw Cruz launch 33 homers and steal 20 bases, but his average stalled out at .260.
In fact, looking at Cruz' full body of work, one realizes that his big stats may have been a bit of a mirage: he's hit 25 or more home runs just twice. He's stolen 20 bases just once. He's hit over .270 in a season with more than 150 at-bats one time. While Cruz managed 159 games played in 2012, he averaged 120 games the three previous years.
Cruz' potential lies in those 42 games per season he never played -- he could hit 30 home runs, but he's always hurt. He could bat .280, but... well, he doesn't. Cruz is going to play 2013 without Josh Hamilton and it appears as though he's stopped trying to steal bases. Are 22 home runs, eight steals, and a .260 average enough to draft Cruz over Brett Lawrie, Wilin Rosario, or even Josh Willingham? I say no. The potential isn't the problem with Cruz, it's the convergence of the counting stats into one single stat line that he can't seem to deliver on.
Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays (Roto: Rd. 9, H2H: Rd. 9)
From 2007 to 2011, Rodney pitched 266 2/3 innings. He made 270 appearances. And his ERA was 4.42 and WHIP sat at 1.50. In 2012, Rodney had a 0.60 ERA with a 0.78 WHIP. His walk rate was the lowest of his career. His strikeout rate was the highest since 2008. He did it all at the age of 35.
Yes, there is a chance that Rodney moved his mound position, adopted a new outlook on things, and essentially became a new pitcher. That would be a great story -- a late-career blooming of talent, a pitching coach who corrected a flaw, a hard-throwing reliever with a new outlook on life and his career. Amy Adams could play the pitching coach's daughter falling in love with the team's mascot, who Rodney became friends with as both sat dejected one night in spring training 2012, before their lives were turned around.
More likely, however, Rodney just caught lightning in a bottle, and is due for a major correction in 2013. Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, and Huston Street -- all being taken after Rodney -- are safer options.
Marco Scutaro, SS/2B, Giants (Roto: Rd. 16, H2H: Rd. 13)
Scutaro hit seven home runs and stole nine bases last year, while batting .306. He is being drafted ahead of about 80 players more deserving of that roster spot. Fine, Scutaro can hit doubles -- and I would guess he gets around 30 playing for the Giants this year. Plus, Scutaro has seen his average climb in the last few seasons: before 2009, his career average was .261. Four years later, he has raised it to .276.
But I'm not sure what people are expecting from Scutaro -- he's Omar Infante with less power and steal potential. Infante's career average is just one point (.275) below Scutaro's. You can give a slight edge in points leagues to Scutaro, but to the extent where Scutaro is the 145th player taken while Infante is wallowing around the 320s? And it's not just Infante who looks like a value in comparison -- Neil Walker is slotting in at 189, Dustin Ackley is sitting at 192, and Howard Kendrick is at 249. A drafter could get similar value from those three players, and they're going several rounds after Scutaro.
It's a little crazy to me that Scutaro is being drafted high enough to even get bust consideration, but an ADP putting him in the 16th round makes him a starter, and Scutaro will end up disappointing owners who ignore the downside of this pick.
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